Tag Archives: Identity

The Dusty Jumper: A Memoir About Basketball, Adolescence, Anxiety, Identity and NBA Fandom

Hello Good People,

I finally finished editing. I have slowly destroyed my inner perfectionist. Or maybe I just got older. Or both. Words are never finished. Writing is never done. But this book is…at last.


The Dusty Jumper is a basketball memoir from a child of the 80s. A collection of tied-together moments from two decades of personal experiences and NBA-related writing. Pieces of a puzzle that concludes with the idea that we are all human. Writing that takes hoops as a centering theme but is really about people and our need to play, cheer, watch, read, and write, and generally connect to something bigger than ourselves.

Good for summer reading. Easy to carry around. Short passages. Basketball. Adolescence. Fandom. Anxiety. Hopefully, you’ll find it mildly humorous and somewhat poetic, though I’m not paid to be a comedian or a poet…(though, usually, comedians and poets are broke).

If you have promotion suggestions, feel free to send any thoughts my way. I’m not a marketing guru, if that wasn’t obvious.

I can tell you the book costs $10, which is less than two pints of gelato, unless they’re on sale.

Happy summer reading,

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Teen Athletics: Identity, individuality vs. conformity, sports culture, masculinity, etc.

The invisible bullying, hazing and machismo that envelops so many sports teams’ locker rooms are a virus. It’s not just Richie Incognito. Every American male who has spent time as a teenager on a sports team knows something of the toxic atmosphere that has been made temporarily visible by the situation Jonathan Martin faced for the last two years. Some locker rooms are exceptional and are safe spaces for their inhabitants, a temporary refuge from a difficult family life, or a place of bonding in an otherwise isolated existence. So many, however, are places of insecurity, constant harassment, minimizing of individuality and insane emphasis on conformity and hetero-normative attitudes on gender. A boy is supposed to “man up,” instead of mature. Pain is secondary. Emotional pain? What’s that? Recovering from an injury? Your body is healed and that’s all that matters.

I played team sports throughout my childhood. My mom signed me up for Pop Warner Football, recreational basketball, Little League baseball, soccer teams, and countless summer youth programs and summer camps (usually hoops) in which I sweated and competed and learned what being a teammate was. On the positive side, I learned how to persevere, not quit teams I didn’t want to play on, learned how to compete, play fair, get over the anxiety of being on a stage, whether it was on the pitcher’s mound, the point guard dribbling at the top of the key on a basketball court, or serving on a tennis court. I learned how to bullshit, laugh, make friends, get along, and deal with people and situations that made me uncomfortable.

I also learned how/what not to be: don’t be a Jew, don’t talk about your feelings, don’t be honest with people when they say things that upset you, don’t stand out, don’t be last in any drill and don’t push back when you’re bullied (especially when you’re smaller than most of your teammates). Also: don’t be mediocre. Don’t be the worst player on a team at anything. Your self-confidence is tested every time you have the ball in your hands. Thankfully, most of the time, I made it. Until I decided the game was losing out to the atmosphere around the game. The identity that I was developing didn’t fit with the identity that team sports demanded of me after the age of 15.

To read the rest of my piece at Splice Today, click here: http://www.splicetoday.com/sports/i-was-a-teenage-athlete

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Support for Jason Collins: Players and Coaches React (and then a brief comment on their comments)

From Sports Illustrated:

Reaction from NBA veteran Jason Collins’ first-person account published in Sports Illustrated, as he came out as the first gay male player in the four major American professional sports:

“If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance.” – Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

(another reason why we love Doc!)

“It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities.” – former President Bill Clinton.

(indeed, Mr. Clinton!)

“Hey Jason Collins-you are now an activist!!! And trust me, you will sleep a lot better now- freedom is a sweet feeling indeed!” – tennis great Martina Navratilova.

(Martina is awesome)

“Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” – NBA Commissioner David Stern.

(Though David Stern is not awesome in many ways, he has been progressive in terms of his global interest, and regarding equality)

“Hopefully he can pave the way for other gay men in sports to be able to live free. I really do feel like it’s all coming together now, the dominos are starting to fall in a positive direction in all aspects of the LGBTQ community and it’s such an exciting time.” – U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who came out just before the 2012 London Olympics.

(It is coming together, and that is awesome.  The momentum is growing…)

“I only want one thing out of my teammate: a commitment to winning. Whether he is straight, gay, black, white, from Earth, or from Mars is immaterial. Just help us win.” – Miami Heat forward Shane Battier.

(Just don’t help Miami win)

“I think he is immensely brave. I think it’s a shame in this day and age he has to be immensely brave, but he is.” – Former NBA player John Amaechi, who came out as gay in 2007.

(Amaechi came out after his career ended, but should be getting respect for his bravery in 2007.)

“Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.” – Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

(Though I’d guess Kobe genuinely feels this way, let’s not forget that Kobe used a certain homophobic slur in a an April 2011 game: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/kobe-bryant-the-real-outrage-isnt-that-he-said-fag/news/2011/04/15/18811)

“I will always support people for being who they are. Happy for (at)jasoncollins34 that he can lead an honest life.” – Cleveland Indians outfielder Nick Swisher.

(Good for Nick Swisher.)

“I don’t think he’ll be received any differently. There shouldn’t be any reason you would view him differently.” – Milwaukee Bucks guard J.J. Redick.

(These statements are supposed to be positive, but are genuinely narrow-minded.  Reality and Utopia are two different things.  It’s like people who said racism has ended when Obama was elected the first time and then claimed it again when he was re-elected.  What will really happen is people who are narr0w-minded and uncomfortable around homosexuals, some who even hate and fear the idea of homosexuality will be receiving him differently, because of their own inability to deal with it.)

“Jason represented everything that we look for as a member of the Atlanta Hawks and we are proud he wore our jersey.” – Atlanta Hawks managing partner Bruce Levenson.

(Way to go, Bruce.)

“I’m sure there were, who cares though?” – former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, asked if he ever had a gay teammate.

(This attitude bothers me, too, and doesn’t help the cause.  Who cares about any differences?  ‘We’re all just football players.’  How about embracing differences, rather than futilely attempting to ignore all of them?)

“Jason is one of the best teammates that I’ve ever had. He was a great presence in the locker room and an even better person.” – Atlanta Hawks forward-center Zaza Pachulia.

(Pachulia is another outsider, from the former Russian-block-country of Georgia to Atlanta, and probably appreciated the fact that Collins didn’t treat Pachulia as if he were just another dude, but was curious about his experiences.)

“I was surprised. I didn’t know and I was right next to him in the locker room.” – Wizards guard Garrett Temple.

(Next time, you won’t be, Garrett.  Having to hide himself wasn’t easy, but too many people have to do it.)

“Jason Collins’ commitment to living openly is a monumental step forward toward greater equality and he immediately becomes a role model for youth all across this country.” – Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

(indeed, Chad Griffin!)

“The time has come. Maximum respect.” – Lakers guard Steve Nash.

(“Maximum, eh?” Love the message, but curious word choice, Stevo.)

“Great teammate, mentor and better person !!” – Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

(Collins is probably an ideal mentor for so many younger guys, because of his dedication and selflessness on the court.)

“Still going to whoop you on the golf course.” – Former NBA guard Nick Van Exel, in a tweet to Collins.

(Thanks, Nick.)

“Basketball does not define Jason Collins. His decision to come out publicly doesn’t define Jason Collins. What defines Jason, is he is a first-rate human being who made a huge contribution to (Stanford), and every team or community he has been a part of.” – Former NBA player and Stanford assistant coach Mark Madsen, a college teammate of Collins’.

(Madsen was always a great energy player and teammates himself.  First-rate human beings.  Not second-or third-rate.  First-rate!)

“I’ve got gay friends, gay people who work for me. It’s not like anything out of the norm.” – Lakers forward Metta World Peace.

(Ever the outspoken individual, I predict Metta will have a reality show within one year of his NBA retirement.)

“Jason Collins showed a lot of courage today and I respect him for taking a stand and choosing to live in his truth. (hash)nbafamily.” – Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

(Wade is a great guy, who has had his personal life dragged through the ugly waters of the media.)

“We salute you, (at)jasoncollins34 for your courage and leadership. Any time you want to throw out a first pitch at Fenway Park, let us know.” – statement from the Boston Red Sox.

(Wouldn’t it be great if Collins and Barney Frank together got to throw out the first pitch?)

“you have made sports what it should be and that’s “OPEN” proud of you for being you.” – former Wizards teammate Martell Webster, who continued his tweet by teasing Collins that his jump shot “is still weak lol.”

(Another selfless NBA player who played with determination, way to go, Martell.)

“I feel a movement coming.” – former U.S. men’s national soccer team player Robbie Rogers, who revealed earlier this year that he is gay.

(Let’s hope so, Robbie.)

“What Jason wrote was beautiful on multiple levels. It’s not a reaction to some rumor and it’s not some unwanted outing. It’s his message, and it was delivered under his control and on his terms.” – Former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita.

(Beautiful, indeed.  Controlling your own message has never been more important.  Can we all stop turning athletes into celebrities to scandalize, and instead embrace the positive things they do, like this?)

“I have known him and his family for a long time, since his sophomore year in high school when we started the recruiting process. He is a tremendous player and smart, fierce competitor. Jason is (a) guy you want to have on your side.” – Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery, Collins’ coach at Stanford.

(Mike Montgomery likes to lose his temper with his players.  Let’s hope he gets some anger management this summer.)

“Somebody had to be the first.” – Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

(Let’s see who is second.)

“I feel like everybody on my team, everybody on every team, deserves to be loved by their teammates for whatever type of person that they are.” – Miami Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey.

(Slowey’s career has been redeemed with the  AAAA-Miami Marlins.  True indeed, that all teammates deserve to be loved and respected.  Except for guys that won’t pass the ball in basketball, and guys that don’t hustle in baseball.  Everyone else, yes.)


Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2013/basketball/nba/wires/04/29/2030.ap.bkn.jason.collins.quotebox.2nd.ld.writethru.1223/index.html#ixzz2S9xdmyxh

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